Thursday, November 21, 2013

Grounds for Divorce in South Carolina

Divorce in South Carolina requires a legal process and Order signed by a Judge and filed with the Clerk of Court. However, no formal process is required to become married. People may be married by common law if they hold themselves out to others to be married and meet certain other requirements.

Before any individual may seek a divorce in South Carolina, they must have been a resident of South Carolina for at least one year, or both parties must have been residents of South Carolina for at least three months. Jurisdiction is determined by statute. Venue is normally in the County in which the Defendant resides, though it may be in the County in which the Plaintiff resides.

South Carolina does not recognize some well-known grounds for divorce in other states or as you may hear in the media, such as psychological cruelty and irreconcilable differences. The sole non-fault ground recognized in South Carolina, living separately and apart for one year, does not allow parties to immediately obtain a divorce upon an agreement or disagreement of the parties.

However, South Carolina does recognize four fault grounds such that the parties are not required to live separately and apart for one year before obtaining a divorce. The four fault grounds are abandonment for one year, habitual drunkenness or drug abuse, physical cruelty, and adultery. It is the burden of the party seeking to obtain a divorce based upon one of these four fault grounds to prove the grounds for divorce.

Most commonly, divorces are obtained upon living separately and apart continuously for one year. In the meantime, parties often obtain a Temporary Order either out of necessity, to protect their rights, or any of many other reasons. Otherwise, the most commonly pursued appears to be adultery. Obtaining a divorce upon the grounds of adultery requires that certain elements be met, namely opportunity and inclination to commit the same. This is a subjective standard, and ultimately a Judge will decide if adultery has been proven.

If you do not have grounds for divorce, other relief may be available to you through the Family Court. The Beaufort County Courthouse is located at 102 Ribaut Road, Beaufort, South Carolina 29926, and the Jasper County Courthouse is located at 265 Russell Street, Ridgeland, South Carolina 29936.